Picking the wine at a company dinner

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Trivia is first. Where does Malbec come from originally?

So there you are, sitting next to the CEO of your company at a dinner function. The server hands him the wine list and he puts it in front of you to make a selection. Skip, your cubicle neighbor, starts to giggle because he’s hoping you fail so that he can make fun of you tomorrow at work. What do you do? Most people panic because they don’t want to look like a fool in front of their boss. Not you. You’ve got a plan. Here it is.

The first thing to realize is that a wine list is generally set up with the lightest wines in the front and the heaviest in the back. With this knowledge, ask the CEO what price range he would like to keep it in. This will narrow the selections. He will usually say a number between $50 and $100. If left up to you, pick something in the $50 range. You want to pick something within $25 of the max price, but don’t exceed it, because you don’t want to look like you waste company money. Pay attention to what everybody has ordered and pick a wine that can be described in a similar way to the food. Now ask for the restaurant’s sommelier (this makes you look like you know what you’re doing). They know the list better than you and can usually come up with something off the top of their head. If the restaurant doesn’t have a sommelier and the server isn’t much help, you’ll be on your own. In this case, go with a Pinot Noir. Pinot goes with just about everything from seafood to lighter style steaks. If everybody orders steak, pick a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Cab from Napa is big in style and goes with the big flavors of steak very well. You should be able to find a decent amount of selections in your price range.

The moral of the story is not to panic if the list is put in your lap. Have a strategy and implement it. This will make you look good in front of the boss because you can take on a challenge, unlike Skip who now looks like a fool for doubting you. Oh yeah, remember, when all else fails, go with a Pinot Noir.

Now for the answer to the trivia question. Malbec originally comes from Bordeaux, France although it has become popular in Argentina where they pair it with beef. Nobody likes beef and red wine more than people from Argentina. Malbec is still made in France as a blending grape in Bordeaux and as the main varietal in Cahors.

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